The more I deal with EMS the more I become aware of an inherent tendency for some to want to reduce everything to process, procedure, protocol. Those so enamored want all to fit tightly and nicely into manuals, handbooks, and control charts. They want deviation from procedure too to have it's own manuals and handbooks.
I'm OK with such to a point. When my car or computer breaks down, I want to be able to either call someone well trained in diagnostics and repair, else to be able to easily find repair and restoration manuals. But I also see a dark side. Ecosystems and social systems are not cars or computers. Both sets of systems operate typically in spaces referred to as "far from equilibrium." They are open, adaptive systems with emergent properties. So I'm a bit skeptical of those who want to reduce all to "operational controls," "performance indicators," "compliance audits," and so on.
More than 40 year ago Douglas McGregor, an organizational psychologist, coined the terms "Theory X," "Theory Y" to represent radically different managerial thinking that compels "managers" to treat employess in radically different ways. See also this from Wikipedia. Under Theory X managers seek to order up all aspects of the lives of those they "supervise." Here are "Theory X" assumptions:
The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can.
- Because of their dislike for work, most people must be controlled and threatened before they will work hard enough.
- The average human prefers to be directed, dislikes responsibility, is unambiguous, and desires security above everything.
- These assumptions lie behind most organizational principles today, and give rise both to "tough" management with punishments and tight controls, and "soft" management which aims at harmony at work.
- Both these are "wrong" because man needs more than financial rewards at work, he also needs some deeper higher order motivation - the opportunity to fulfill himself.
- Theory X managers do not give their staff this opportunity so that the employees behave in the expected fashion.
Managerial outlook is much different under MacGregor's Theory Y. Under Theory Y managers seek to nurture and expand the potential of employees by giving them challenges, letting them explore beyond the boundaries, and expecting them to fail sometimes to learn from mistakes:
In Managing the Unexpexted, Karl Weick explains that in organizations we need to employ both theories, situationally, in order to take advantage of management where things can and ought to be reduced to cookbooks, and to take advantage of management where things ought not to be so reduced. Weick says, for example, that none of us would like our airline pilots to skip their preflight checklists, but we want to know too that they are competent to deal with whatever irregularities that may arize and able to deal with the novelty that always arises when operating an aircraft. So to with driving our automobiles. It is a frightening prospect to think of someone driving a car "by the book." On the other hand it is a frightening prospect to think of someone driving a car ignorant of basic law and rules of the road.
- The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest.
- Control and punishment are not the only ways to make people work, man will direct himself if he is committed to the aims of the organization.
- If a job is satisfying, then the result will be commitment to the organization.
- The average man learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility.
- Imagination, creativity, and ingenuity can be used to solve work problems by a large number of employees.
- Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average man are only partially utilized.
The trick in all is balance. I fear that just like Forest Service planning, NEPA, and much more the balance has tilted way too far toward cookbooks for all, and the conformance that comes only from Theory X. In seeking precision and professionalism, we may have lost our ability to be adaptive. Will EMS drive us further into this organizational, managerial trap?